A Virginia county in the Richmond suburbs has approved a policy restricting the ability of transgender students to use facilities matching their gender identity.
Last week, Hanover County Public Schools, a school district located just north of Richmond, passed a policy that requires transgender students to submit a written note from their parents and doctor allowing them to use bathrooms, locker rooms, or changing facilities that correspond with their gender identity.
The new policy, approved on a 5-2 vote, states: “If a student who identifies as transgender requests access to restrooms, locker rooms or changing facilities that align with their gender identity but not their sex, the following process will be utilized to evaluate each request on a case-by-case basis.”
That process requires students to submit a slew of paperwork, including a statement from the student specifying their gender identity and how they have “consistently, persistently, and insistently” expressed that identity; a signed statement from the student’s physician, therapist, or licensed counselor verifying that the student has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria or “consistently and authentically expresses a binary gender identity”; and statements from the student’s parent or guardian attesting to their child’s gender identity.
In addition, students must submit to a background check by handing over any disciplinary or criminal records, and must submit documents from any “interested parties” detailing information related to the privacy and safety of other students, and any other “relevant information” concerning their gender identity, according to NBC affiliate WWBT.
Once all of the paperwork is completed and gathered, the principal of the school will send the documents to the school board. The student’s request to use gender-affirming facilities will then be approved or denied on a case-by-case basis by the board.
Transgender students who have already gotten prior approval to use gender-affirming bathrooms reportedly do not have to reapply.
According to Hanover School Board Chairman John Axselle III, the policy was crafted in consultation with the board’s attorney and counsel from Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal advocacy group that advocates for a return to Biblical principles and frequently speaks out against pro-LGBTQ policies — which has led to it being labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Critics say allowing ADF to approve the legislation is suspicious, given its hostility to LGBTQ rights. But Axselle emphasized that the policy can be altered after its implementation, based on community feedback about what is working well and what isn’t.
“We welcome input from the community, we really do, or we wouldn’t have so many public comment times, and we heard from them, and the board had heard from numerous people pro and con,” Axselle told WWBT. “So we heard from both sides, and I think the board speaks for itself. The board decided to adopt the policy.”
Outside the meeting, proponents and protesters rallied and demonstrated, hoping to sway school board members into selecting their preferred policy.
“Come on back to the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) model policy that was written and intended for protection of children, not harm of children,” one protester said.
Virginia state lawmakers passed a law in 2020 requiring all school districts to adopt so-called “model policies” for transgender and nonbinary students by the start of the 2021-2022 school year. Under those guidelines, schools were required to adopt rules “that are consistent with but may be more comprehensive than” the VDOE model policies.
Hanover County Public Schools adopted some requirements regarding the recognition of trans students’ identities last November, but opted against approving rules that would have allowed transgender individuals to use bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identities. The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia subsequently filed a lawsuit against the board on behalf of five parents of transgender students demanding that their children be permitted to use gender-affirming facilities.
But Terra Lawrence, a mother of four, told WWBT she was “pleased” the measure passed.
“I do feel like it encompasses parental rights, it encompasses privacy rights for our students, so I’m really happy about it,” she said.
Patricia Jordan, the vice president of the Hanover County NAACP, objected to the policy, especially the provision requiring students to submit to a criminal background check, calling it overly intrusive.
“As you may well know, we’ve had issues here with the recent football team,” Jordan said. “They’re not asking for background checks on any of those players or anybody, but they want background checks on people who have done absolutely nothing and just want to be in school.”